13 September 2013 - Global consultancy firm SMEC South Africa has helped ensure that Coca Cola has become the first company in Africa to obtain internationally recognised Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold and Silver certification at its Valpré Water Bottling facility in Heidelberg, Gauteng.

Developed by the United States Green Building Council, LEED is an internationally recognised green building organisation that provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

SMEC South Africa technical director Gert Wentzel says that the site selection was done after extensive geo-hydraulic studies. During the course of 2008, the SMEC South Africa team undertook specialist geotechnical and traffic impact investigations before construction work began in 2009. “One of the unique innovations of the project design was to ensure that the facility blended in with the surrounding landscape. The roof sheeting colours were selected to have the highest possible solar reflectivity index (SRI). The aggregate for the concrete was also selected for its high refection value resulting in reduced heat gain in the building and minimising the heat island effect,” Wentzel says.

The facility is located outside the urban footprint since it has to be close to the source; this, according to natural bottled water legislation. All the water used for the product and for domestic consumption is sourced from within the catchment area surrounding the facility. The fresh water management system is a closed system and all water used on site is treated and reused. All effluent that is generated on site is treated and re-used for service water purposes. In combination with the harvested rainwater, a sufficient amount of service water is generated to minimise extraction from the local resources.

To reduce electricity consumption, the facility was designed to enable the maximum amount of natural sunlight to enter the building through the roof.  A daylight study revealed that a castellated roof with both transparent and translucent sheeting was the best option for filtering natural light onto the floor space. The design and placement of electric lights internally and externally was done in an environmentally responsible manner, creating a comfortable working environment.

Valpré plant manager Refentse Puso says the design has proven to be such a success that the main production floor now requires minimal electric lighting. This substantial reduction in electricity consumption has been complemented by the use of the solar power plant and motion and daylight sensors. The solar power plant has been sized to generate enough power to fulfil the administration offices’ needs, which practically makes the office block a net-zero building.

Having already obtained LEED Gold accreditation for the facility’s administrative block in July 2012, Valpré was then awarded LEED Silver accreditation for its bottling plant in May 2013. Puso says, “The administration building is the first in Africa and one of only 1 000 worldwide to receive LEED Gold certification, which makes this project an environmental breakthrough locally.”

Wentzel believes that an increasing number of operations in South Africa will be aiming for LEED certification, as a result of increased awareness through public and legislative pressure to embrace sustainable development principles.